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Networking 101: Have Other People Talk About Themselves

 

It seems painfully obvious to me how networking should function, but given the number of law student and recent grads I speak to who have zero clue how to network, it isn’t.

No one want to hear about your needs, desires, or wants. If you’re a jobless law grad and go to a social function with other lawyers and just go around pleading for a job, it shouldn’t be a surprise that no one hires you. You’ve done nothing to indicate that you might be suitable for hiring – what you’ve actually done is shown that you would likely be a bad hire.

Instead of entering into the conversation and relationship with the other person with the mindset of “What can I do to help this person?” you’ve entered into it with a “What can this person do for me?” A mindset that is bad, not only for networking, but for clients, friends, anyone really.

The best thing you can do when in a networking situation is have other people talk about themselves. Be inquisitive. Ask about their work, family, hobbies, etc. Why? If you want the details you can read about The Neuroscience of Everybody’s Favorite Topic:

These results [from the research] suggest that self-disclosure—revealing personal information to others—produces the highest level of activation in neural regions associated with motivation and reward, but that introspection—thinking or talking about the self, in the absence of an audience—also produces a noticeable surge of neural activity in these regions. Talking about the self is intrinsically rewarding, even if no one is listening.

People love to talk about themselves. Research shows that it lights up the please portions of our brains – even when no one is listening!

Networking time baby!

Networking time baby!

So in a networking setting, if you want to make a positive impression on someone else – leave them happy with their interaction with you – get them talking about themselves. It’s their favorite topic! Going a step further, add value to the topic. If they’re talking about some hobby they’re involved in, chime in if you know about it. If you don’t, it’s an opportunity to go learn about it and then follow up with that person a week later by saying:

Hi [person]

Great to meet you last week at [event we were at]. I had a great time speaking with you. I recently read an article about [hobby that person is into], that I thought you might enjoy. It’s about [brief 1-2 sentence synopsis] and can be read here: . Hope  you have a great week!

[Your Name]

You just followed up with this person, and added value to something they’re already into. You still haven’t asked for anything! You’re still making it be about them. This type of follow up is almost always well received. You’re encouraging the person on their favorite topic. After this type of exchange it’s easy to segue into coffee or lunch with the person. It’s no different if you end up talking to a lawyer about some case or procedural matter they are involved in.

Hi [person]

Great speaking with you last week at [event we were at]. I enjoyed hearing about [case they are handling/issue they are having]. After [event we were at], I remembered [a case/law review article/blawg post] about the [case/issue], that might be relevant. It’s about [brief 1-2 sentence synopsis] and can be read here: . Hope  you have a great week!

[Your Name]

Same format, slightly tweaked. Either way, it’s not about getting what you need, it’s about helping the other person, and adding value to their needs. Only once you have built a reputation of being helpful and reliable, should you feel comfortable in asking for assistance from the other person. You’ll no longer be some random stranger who is looking for a handout, but rather a familiar face who has offered to help out in this past.

marble and sculptorIf you’re interested to learn about networking and building relationships, you might consider picking up my book, The Marble and The Sculptor: From Law School to Law Practice. It includes much more on the topic, including additional scripts for other networking situations and a much more detailed guide on how to effectively network. It’s available for pre-order now.

 

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About Keith Lee

I'm the founder and editor of Associate's Mind. I like to write, talk, and think about law, professional development, technology, and whatever else floats my boat. I practice law in Birmingham, AL.

3 comments

  1. I thought you were going one way, then you shifted gears on my. Yes, having young lawyers trying to schmooze you with “all about me” and “woe is me” type chatter is an immediate sign that you should get away from them as quickly as possible. Sorry, kids, but you are not nearly as fascinating as you think.
    However, trying to get me to talk about me isn’t fascinating to me either. Not so much that I’m not fascinating, because I naturally am, but that I have no interest in discussing me with a kid. Rather, show me that you know what’s going on in the world, that you care about things (even if I disagree with you), that you have a deep thought that doesn’t involve an iPad, and I’ll be impressed.
    Only then do I care to talk more to you. First make me think you’re not another special little snowflake and then I will be willing to invest.

    • @shg That a fair point as well. Having a breadth of knowledge outside of law school, celebrity gossip, and the lastest happenings on Facebook is required if you want to interact with people outside of a superficial level.
      In some respects, it comes down to “be interested” and “be interesting.” 
      That is, be interested in the world at large: politics, news, topics of debate, business trends, etc. It shows that you don’t have your head up your ass. 
      Then be an interesting person: have opinions on these issues, have past times and hobbies completely removed from law practice. Engage in activities and pastimes that broaden your horizons and offer new perspectives. Then you might be able to bring something new to the table that another person might be interested in.

  2. This is very true.  However, this should be a natural way that you interact with everyone.  This is true and honest discourse and a way to make true connections.   The problem is our society is so bound up with me-me-me that this perspective is not seen a lot anymore.

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